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"In Bad Times, God is Good!"
James 1:16-18

Wednesday AM Bible Study
May 7, 2003

In a time of trial, we need to remember what is true of God. Our circumstances change. Our strength changes. But God never changes. This passage gives us five "anchor-points" to hold on to in a time of trial - and none of them will ever change, because they are all things that are true of an unchanging God.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above ..." (v. 17).

A. "Good" and "perfect" together express the nature of that which God gives. "Good" expresses that the things He gives are beneficial and helpful to us; and "perfect" expresses that the things God gives are conducive to our being made complete and brought to ultimate fulfillment in Christ (vv. 2-4; see also Matthew 7:9-11).

B. The source of these things is "from above"; that is, from God as He causes them to descend to us from His heavenly throne. And it is emphasized to us that this is true of "every" good and perfect gift - not one of which comes to us from anywhere else but God our Father (Psalm 145:15-16; Matthew 5:45).

C. This is our first "anchor-point" in a time of trial. Whatever is happening to us, we know that it cannot be but from a God who only gives good and perfect gifts to us and who never purposes any evil toward us.

"... and comes from the Father of lights ..." (v. 17).

A. "Light" is used in Scripture as a metaphor for such things as holiness, moral purity, joy, happiness and beauty (John 3:19-21; 1 John 1:5-7; 1 Tim. 6:16; Psalm 27:1).

B. God, here, is described as the "Father of lights"; indicating that He is the source of all that purifies, brightens, and gladdens His creation. If anything is ever called "good", it is because it comes from and reflects the character of the One who is its ultimate source.

C. This is our second "anchor-point" in a time of trial. Nothing will ever come to us except from the "Father of lights" who causes all things to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28) and who even means for good what others mean for evil (Gen. 50:20).

"... with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." (v. 17).

A. "No variation" means "no change". God, in His essential character, does not change. "No shifting shadow" (or literally, no shadow of turning) means that there isn't even a secondary indication of change in position in God as would be indicated by a movement of cast shadow. Together, these indicate that there isn't the slightest change in God (Psalm 102:25-27; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8).

B. This is our third "anchor-point" in a time of trial. Our circumstances may change; and even we may change. But our good God will never change.

"Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth ..." (v. 18).

A. All that has been said before concerns His creation in general. But here, we see God's special grace to those He redeems. He brings them forth - that is, gives them birth and life. And He has done so, not because He had to or because He was forced to, but of His own will (1 Peter 1:3; John 1:12-13; Eph. 2:4-7); and by the word of truth (1 Pet. 1:22- 23).

B. This is our fourth "anchor-point" in a time of trial. God, who has freely chosen us for Himself, and has freely caused us to be "born again", will never purpose for us anything but our good (Rom. 5:6-10).

"... that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures ..." (v. 18).

A. One of the greatest things we can cling to in a time of trial is God's ultimate purpose for us. His goal is that we be a kind of "firstfruits". Israel was commanded to give the first of their produce to God as a symbol that all belonged to Him and that more that was good was yet to come (Deut. 26:1-10). He has likewise called us to Himself that we might be His "firstfruits" (Rev. 14:4). All of creation awaits our being revealed as such (Rom. 8:18-22).

B. This is our fifth "anchor-point" in a time of trial. We can never complain that God is doing us wrong in a time of trial. Instead, we can rest in the fact that, through this trial, He is fulfilling His ultimate purpose for us (Phil. 1:6).

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